The Power of Exercise to Expand Your Child’s Learning Potential

Without thinking too hard, how many hours does your child spend moving each day? Maybe an easier question: how much time do they spend sitting on a bus, in school, in the car, doing homework, or in front of the tv, computer and phone?

It’s no secret that exercise is necessary for a healthy life. The physical benefits like strength, cardiorespiratory fitness, coordination and balance are some of the most common reasons we seek to break a sweat. Exercise also improves sleep and digestion, and can help alleviate anxiety and depression, which in our world of never-ending screen time and cheap pre-made foods, are all driving our need to move more.

When we dive even deeper into the role exercise plays in the health of our body and mind, we find that being physically active develops and strengthen our brains. It becomes the catalyst for new cell growth and repair and improves learning readiness and attention (3).

How Exercise Expands Learning Potential

Did you catch that? Exercise amplifies our ability to learn. This learning potential is hardwired into our DNA just like our ability to move. And when we understand this mind-body connection, we can make it work for us.

Imagine you’ve just finished your favorite spin session, trail run or yoga class for the day. How do you feel in the hours after exercising? The Zen mind and runner’s high aren’t just myths, they are part of the mind-body movement connection.

It works exactly the same for kids. Mentally, since exercise improves learning readiness, attention improves after bouts of exercise, focus sharpens, and kids are able to more easily remember information. Physically, they’ll feel stronger; be more confident; and be able to stay calm, still, and relaxed during long periods of study time.

Moving the Body to Grow the Mind

So how can you utilize exercise to boost your child’s learning potential?

Research shows that the benefits of exercise can last for up to two hours (2), which means, before a long study session, helping your child move and get their heart rate up will dramatically improve their enjoyment, attention and retention of the material. And, studies have also shown that kids are more likely to continue physical activity when parental support is high (1).

Here is where you come in. Exercising together will increase the enjoyment of study time for both of you and help create an atmosphere more conducive to learning. When you show them how to move and that it feels good, you will be giving your child a tool that will last well beyond their school days.

There are many different movements to choose, but from my experience working with both kids and adults, jumping rope can be one of the best places to start. It’s simple, quick to learn, easy to travel with, and it’s something you can practice together.

Using the ideas below as templates, start with 5 – 7 minutes of high energy movement before studying. Get creative and have fun with it!

Workout Option #1

1 – 2 rounds for max jumps:
One-minute Jump Rope
45-second Jump Rope
30-second Jump Rope
15-second Jump Rope

Workout Option #2

1 – 2 rounds:
One-minute Jump Rope
30-second Jumping Jacks
One-minute Jump Rope
30 seconds Rest

Workout Option #3

Create a game! Try to jump rope for the amount of reps in each set below, without tripping!
15-30-45-60-75

Good luck and happy jumping!

To learn more about exercise and its impact on learning check out:

1. Parental Influence on Young Children’s Physical Activity

2. TED Talk: The Brain Changing Benefits of Exercise by Wendy Suzuki

3. Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Rately

About the Author

A San Diego native, Stephanie is a former ballerina and triathlete who has always understood the demands of training, and the importance of body maintenance and mobility. She began teaching yoga in San Francisco, CA. During that time, she also created Endure Yoga, a movement method for recovery and athletic resilience. With a focus on athletes and her own fitness journey, she found CrossFit in 2015, and began coaching across the bridge in Marin County.

In 2018, she established Uprush Athletics in San Diego with her husband, John, and now works with kids, teens, collegiate and professional athletes, and adults in strength and conditioning, fitness and yoga. Along with teaching and coaching, she has written and published e-books, and developed online programs for yoga, strength and post-workout recovery. Stephanie has also written over 50 articles for fitness publications including Oxygen Magazine, Muscle and Performance, Bodybuilding.com, SweatRX and active.com.

To learn more about Stephanie Main, visit Uprush Athletics and Endure Yoga

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